Long term test September 03: Ducati 999

Published: 09 September 2003

THE Ducati 999S is not a bike for the shy and retiring. It attracts attention from bikers and non-bikers alike wherever it goes.

The combination of Ducati Red paint and the silver/grey coating on the frame and engine acts like a magnet to passers-by. With the blend of angular plastics, tubular steel frame rails and a big hunk of the rear-facing cylinder on display, people view it as a proper bike. The strength of the Ducati brand pulls people in.

The feeling of warmth coursing through my veins every now and then is nothing to do with the kids’ chocolate-flavoured Readybrek I eat most mornings, it’s the feeling of pride when the 999S grabs someone’s attention and positive comments flow.

Unbelievably the 999 does occasionally get short shrift. Abuse from stalwarts of the 916-996 is common. But time moves on…

I’ve always said that I’d only fit parts that aid comfort or make real-world improvements to the bike’s performance, chassis or engine.

So after months of window shopping various parts have been viewed, tapped with a finger, discussed with friends and now fitted.

I started with a higher screen and things seemed to snowball from there...

1: Front fork protection £free

Upside-down forks are prone to corrosion where the chromed or nitrided slider joins the cast alloy caliper mounting. Surface water spray runs down the slider and sits in the small gap and in time furs up like a kettle element. The repair is expensive – bordering on impossible if the corrosion bites deep into the casting.

My advice is to spray the area with chain wax, or any other thick chain lube. This fills the gap and prevents water gathering there. Repeat this every month but don’t let any of the lube get onto the discs or brake pads. Stick some paper between the fork leg and brakes and wipe off any excess.

2: Double-Bubble screen £65, Contact: Pyramid Plastics, 01427-612536

My ride to work is a 35-mile dash, but the ride home stretches to 50 miles in good weather.

The standard screen is low and bolsters the bike’s sharp looks. It even does a good job of directing windblast on to the upper part of my trunk to take some weight off my wrists at speed. But it isn’t enough on longer journeys when I need to get out of the wind. It’s just too low too tuck under properly. This is most noticeable when you’re on a track with a long straight.

The taller profile of the Pyramid screen lifts the air flow higher so I can tuck in behind it. I chose a clear screen, because I thought a black or tinted one would look out of place on the 999.

Unlike the original screen, there’s no cut-out for the ridiculous, distracting screen-mounted front parking light, which is a blessing.

3: Carbon Rear Hugger £125, Contact: Casoli Moto, 020-8440-4140

A rear hugger is the first bolt-on part bought by any self-respecting bike owner. On the 999 small stones get trapped between the back of the engine casing and swingarm pivot tube and can grind holes into the cast alloy engine cases. So why hasn’t the 999S got one as standard?

4: Ducati Performance Vented Clutch Cover £191, Contact: Ducati dealers

AT £190 this is expensive, so why fit it? It’s stronger than carbon-fibre alternatives and it’s crafted from billet aluminium. As it’s vented it lets the dry clutch run cooler and dust from the plates is drawn away rather than building up under a solid cover.

5 Carbon Lower Fairing £120, Contact: Casoli Moto, 020-8440-4140

THIS V-shaped fairing piece consists of a carbon-fibre surround with gold mesh in the centre. The grille stops stones from damaging the oil cooler. The cover also protects the plug caps on the front cylinder. These are prone to water spray from the front tyre which can cause misfires.

6 Ducati Performance Termignoni Race Can £1013

THE standard 999 doesn’t sound like a Ducati as the world knows it because of its stifled exhaust note. A Termignoni end can seemed like the obvious solution.

The can is all stainless steel and straight through. It weighs a bulky 5.2kg, much of which is accounted for by the amount of sound absorption material inside. The big V-twin power pulses are difficult to silence and are very effective at pulling the packing material apart.

It’s much lighter than the original can (8.4kg) as it has no mechanical baffling or catalytic converter.

There’s a second cat in the pipework from the front cylinder to the can, but a replacement straight-through pipe is also supplied.

You also get a pair of free-flow air inlet filters and a revised ECU to cope with the freer breathing can.

Ducati claim the noise level goes from whisper-quiet to a pleasing and track-happy level of 102db. Fitting instructions are supplied.

The standard 999S’s 126bhp output at the rear wheel is impressive. So with the Termignoni race can, less-restrictive inlet filters and uprated ECU and Ducati’s claim of an 8 per cent increase, I was hoping for around 135bhp. The actual increase of just 2bhp was a major disappointment.

It turned out the poor old 999S was running very lean from 4000rpm because the exhaust kit is not a simple bolt-on affair. The 999’s engine management system and injection potentiometer has to be completely reset. I’ve booked myself into Ducati Coventry to sort out the fuelling and find the missing bhp. I’ll let you know how it all pans out.